Summer Soup

Leeks are a European staple that resemble a large green onion, with a mild oniony flavor, that isn’t of the onion family. It’s delicate flavor often gets lost under the shadow of potatoes in an American favorite, potato leek soup. Let their flavor shine by pairing with other summer favorites like corn and carrots. Here’s a soup recipe to try this week showcasing all three of these mid summer favorites. Continue reading

Consider the carrot

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

There is little on this earth that is quite so satisfying as knuckling down in the dirt and pulling out the carrot which is ready to come. Just a bit of resistance before the smaller roots release with an audible crackle you can feel through your fingertips, and the taproot slides out. Until this moment, the carrot has lived a subterranean life. A tiny seed that stretches itself in two directions in yogic form – root down, rise up – its leaves are tens of tiny hands reaching each finger out to the sun, soaking it in and sending it down to create a stronger and stronger base. The root, for its part, pushes out against the inside of the ground. Water is sought. More roots form. Little ones like the fins on a whale seemingly too small to steady, but they do. And if it were to have eyes, I believe the carrot would be blinded by the sun as it slipped from the earth, would meet its fate following the light.

 

The Last Carrot Cake Recipe You’ll Ever Need

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

Who doesn’t love carrot cake? Sure, it’s technically a dessert, but it has fruit, nuts and vegetables, so that makes it kind of healthy, right? This is the best carrot cake recipe you will ever come across. It’s adapted from the fabulous Dorie Greenspan.

for the cake:
2 c all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
2 t ground cinnamon
3/4 t salt
3 c grated carrots (about 9 carrots)
1 c coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 c shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 c moist, plump raisins or dried cranberries
2 c sugar
1 c canola oil
4 large eggs

Tweaks: I don’t use quite as much sugar and coconut as called for. I’d say I use about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of coconut – anything more is just too sweet for me, especially considering that this cake has frosting. Also, I always use walnuts and raisins, not pecans and cranberries. Though sometimes I use walnuts and raisins and cranberries, depending on what I have on hand.

Preheat oven to 325. Mix oil and sugar until smooth. Add eggs. Add flour and powders. Add chunkier dry ingredients last. The cake bakes for 40-50 min.

for the frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 lb (3 3/4 c) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 T fresh lemon juice or 1/2 t lemon extract
1/2 c shredded coconut

More tweaks: Again, I reduce the sugar – to anywhere from 2 to 3 cups – and completely omit the coconut from the frosting.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese. Slowly add sugar and, if you’re using it, coconut and beat until smooth. Mix in lemon juice or extract last.

Frost your cake after it’s completely cool. Dorie frosts her carrot cake in layers, but I save it all for the top and sides.

This recipe makes a nice, big cake and I find we just can’t (or shouldn’t) eat it all unless we have friends to share it with, so I often adapt this recipe to make cupcakes instead. (Cupcakes are nice and portable and, I have found, tend to get eaten off a staff room table more readily than slices of cake). Simply pour your batter into greased muffin tins and bake at the same until cupcakes are firm and a knife, when stuck into the center, comes out clean.